Mayflower Gulch Grand Traverse trail is a choose-your-difficulty hike that’s more of an exploration area than a hike with a designated route. If you hike the entirety of the trails, you could go as far as 6 miles with 1,500 feet in elevation gain, but you get to choose your own adventure so those numbers are quite flexible. This hike is great for anyone from kids and families to casual hikers or mining enthusiasts. Plus, it’s situated in a bowl that offers some great views of the surrounding mountains, so it’s just a nice place to be.
From Highway I-70, take exit 195 towards CO-91 / Copper Mountain / Leadville. Continue on CO-91 heading south for about 5.9 miles, and your destination will be on the left. There’s an obvious parking area, as well as a trailhead bulletin board. If you have a low clearance or two-wheel-drive vehicle, this is your stop. It’s approximately 1 mile to the cabin ruins from here. There’s no bathrooms in the area.
If you have a 4WD/AWD vehicle with decent clearance, you can continue on down the old mining road and save yourself this mile of walking. We found that the largest obstacle in the road was towards the beginning, and consisted of a large dip that you must choose a good route. If you aren’t comfortable or able to get past this, park off the road or backtrack to the parking area.
Whether you’re walking or driving, you’ll pass a collapsed cabin on your left and the foundations of an ore shoot on your right. In about a mile (some sites says 1.5 miles but I haven’t measured it myself) you’ll run into a large gate blocking the road. Park here and continue on foot – the cabin ruins are only 50 yards ahead of you.
The Hike – Mayflower Gulch
One of the main attractions are the mining cabin ruins just past the large gate. There’s several of them and you can’t miss them. They sit at about 11,500 feet in elevation and are situated in a amphitheater surrounded by jagged mountain peaks (Fletcher Mountain, Crystal Peak, Pacific Peak, and more). This elevation led to treacherous winter conditions, including avalanches, howling winds, and snow on the ground the majority of the year. In fact, I hiked this trail late August, and it had snowed overnight!
These cabins are the ruins of the Boston Mining Camp from around 1884-1900, when a large gold vein was discovered near Fletcher Mountain. The boom died practically overnight when they discovered the vein lacked purity, and the miners left their cabins and dispersed into the surrounding areas looking for more success. Fast forward to 2009, when the Summit County Open Spaces & Trails Department paid $900,000 for the Mayflower Gulch area, which also led to the previous owners relinquishing their mining permits. This will ensure that this open space stays natural and protected, despite there being anywhere from 15-50 million dollars worth of gold below ground.
Take some time to soak in the history here, or maybe even encounter a few ghosts. You can continue up the old wagon road, which winds up deeper into the amphitheater. I took the left fork, which led up to a gate marked by a Summit County Open Space sign. I continued on just far enough to soak in some great views of the valley below and to see the jagged peak line above me. Up there, there’s some more building ruins and you can still see the giant iron cable that connects a mine entrance to the building below. This section can add up to 2 miles and about 700 feet of elevation gain to your hike.
Retrace your steps back to the old mining cabins, then take the trail up to the left to summit Gold Hill. On the summit, you’ll find a wide open meadow with fantastic views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. Taking on this side route adds about 1.1 miles and about 500 feet of elevation gain to your exploration.
Mayflower Gulch is a great area for some exploring in the great Rocky Mountains. It’s rich with history and chock full of amazing views, so it’s bound to be a great day outside. Make your adventure short by driving the road and walking around the cabin ruins, or lengthen it by hiking into the amphitheater or summiting Gold Hill.
If you want more history on your tour of Mayflower Gulch, consider bringing along a copy of Mary Ellen Gilliland’s local history book “Summit, A Gold Rush History of Summit County, Colorado” from 2006. Depending on availability, you may be able to get this book in at the bookstore in the nearby town of Frisco.
In the winter, the mining roads turns into a fun cross country skiing trail or snow-shoeing trail. If you want to take advantage of some snowy fun, we recommend doing some more research. From what we understand, the road is relatively safe from avalanches, but the risk does increase the farther you get up into the bowl. Be safe out there!